Thursday, November 29, 2018

DINNER TIME! Mexican Style Rib Eye Steak

Sometimes, we'll go to a restaurant and have a great meal...a great meal that I'd like to replicate at home. This week's recipe is one of those.

Rudy's is a Mexican restaurant near our home in Monrovia, California. On the menu, under "Carne Asada," is this one...what comes out is basically a rib eye steak served with rice and beans.

Here is my version...


4 10- oz choice (or better), 1 inch thick rib eye steaks
1 bunch Mexican green onions (can substitute regular green onions if needed)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons melted butter
1-2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Put the steaks in a plastic bowl, platter, large dish, etc.

Sprinkle Worcestershire sauce on both sides .

Brush melted butter onto both sides.

Sprink Kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper on both sides.

On a hot grill, with burning charcoal on one half only,  place the onions over the hot coals for three minutes on each side. Then, put the onions on the other side of the grill (indirect heat). Put the steak over the coals for three minute per side.

Move steaks to indirect heat side of grill. Place one onion on top of each steak. Cook covered (with lid on) 6-7 minutes per side for medium rare.

Place on platter, cover with foil for a 10 minute rest when done.

We like to serve with rice and beans, plus a grille onion you can slice up and eat with the steak, and a little hot salsa sprinkled over the top.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 15, 2018

CHEAP EATS: Restaurant Specials to Save You Some Lettuce

We all love a good deal. We love 'em even better when we're on a limited income and have to watch our cash flow like a hawk. One thing we've noticed is the date and time sensitive specials restaurants will run from time-to-time.

Dining out is an expensive proposition, so these deals really come in handy's a few that we've notice.

The 5th Day at Philly's Best. Philly's Best is a local Southern California chain that specialized in cheesesteak sandwiches. Yeah, they're not Geno's or Pat's, but they're still pretty good.

On any date that ends in a "5," you can get any sandwich on their menu for $5.55. That means Tim and I can get their cheesesteak sandwich, which is easily enough for both of us, for almost two dollars off. Other sandwiches that are normally $8.49 (such as the Buffalo chicken sandwich) are also only $5.55.

At Popeye's Louisiana Chicken, you can pick up two pieces of chicken for around two bucks on Tuesddays (two on Tuesday). Delicious, too.

Church's Chicken, not to be outdone, will give you a thigh, two drumsticks, and a biscuit for $2.99 but this is available pretty much all the time.

Carl's Jr. has a sliders happy hour from 2-5pm each day where the little burgers are available for a buck each.

If you're a fan of the drive-in at Sonic, Tuesday nights after 5pm are Family Night with half-price cheeseburgers.

You can also get half-price drinks and slushes plus 99 cent corn dogs every day from 2-4pm during their happy hour.

Of course, there's always the buck fifty hot dog and soda at the Costco food court everyday but, if you're trying to go healthy, their $4.99 acai bowl is hard to beat.

Finally, we need some desert, so show up any 31st day of the month at Baskin Robbins to get their delicious ice cream for only $1.50 a scoop.

Happy (and cheap) eating!

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

TRAVEL TIPS: Paying for Your Trip

While there are a select few people who get their travel paid for them, I'm not one of them (but I'm willing to change that - Ed) and chances are neither are you. So where do we come up with the money to travel with?

First, you need to know how much your trip will cost. There are two approaches you can take with this. We use both, depending on how much we want to go to a particular location or how much we want to spend on a trip.

If you know where you want to go, you need to know how much it will cost to go there. You can research how much your destination will cost using travel sites like, Kayak, and Expedia where you can get a pretty good ballpark estimation of how much it will cost for your airfare and lodging. You can also look up rental car rates there too, if needed.

Be sure to include an estimate of how much food will cost and how much your hotel will feed you, if at all. If you're driving, figure out your gas mileage and calculate that too.

Once you have that amount, add at least 10% to that to cover any incidentals along the way, total it all up and that's how much you'll need to save.

Figure out when you want to go, how many weeks away from now it is, and divide that number by the cost of the trip. That's how much you'll need to sock away each week. Do that, and you'll have enough to go when the time comes.

The other way to figure out how much it will cost is to set aside a certain amount each week, say $50 and then decide when you want to go, let's say 6 months from now. 26 weeks of $50 will get you $1,300. 

When the time gets near, find out where you can go for that amount and plan your trip to somewhere you can afford (don't think that amount is too little either...we did a week in the Dominican, all-inclusive including air, for less than $1,200 per person).

Some people will say they don't have the discipline to put aside that set amount of money each week. That's need some discipline to travel successfully anyway so why not start with the money? If you don't think there's any money to save, try skipping one Starbucks latte and an extra value meal each week...there's $10 right there and it's going to be healthier too.

OK, let's think of some other strategies...

Does your employer use Direct Deposit? Many employers that use Direct Deposit allow you to not only automatically deposit the money to your bank account, but also a few other accounts as well. For example, if you work for the U.S. Government, you can set up your deposit to be split up to as many as three accounts so let's say 80% can go into your main checking account, 10% into a household expense account, and another 10% into a vacation account.

Now you're saving up your vacation money without even thinking about it.

If you can't take advantage of this, talk to your bank or credit union. Many will allow automatic transfers into separate savings accounts that can be used the same way.

However you pay for your vacation, I strongly urge you not to charge it.  Save up for it, don't end up paying for it long after it's over.

Other ways to help pay for travel, or at least soak up some of the costs is to use reward credit/debit cards and to join loyalty programs. 

Travel rewards cards earn points for each dollar spent that can be cashed in for things like airfare and hotels. Be sure to read the fine print, however, because many of these cards charge a lot of fees for it. Here are some recommended cards:

We don't travel by air a whole lot, so we prefer a cash back card that pays you a certain percentage rebate for each use. Our favorite is the Costco Citi Visa card that racks up several hundred dollars a year for use in everyday use including 4% for gas, 3% for travel and restaurants, 2% for purchases at Costco, and 1% for everything else (our cash back paid for our Bahamas cruise this year).  Some other recommended rewards cards are listed here:

Hotel loyalty programs are also good to earn free room stays. Find a chain you like, join the club, and start racking up the points. We use Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, a lesser extent...Choice Hotels.  By joining the loyalty program, which is completely free, we not only get points for free stays (and get at least a free night in a hotel each year), we also get some added perks at the hotel just by being a member such as upgraded rooms or late check-outs.

These are all tips to help you accumulate the money you need to afford a vacation.  It's actually not too hard to do. Figure a price, save an amount each week till you reach it, use rewards and loyalty programs to help you accumulate free travel and lodging, and off you go.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick (updated 2017)
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 8, 2018

DINNER TIME! Baked Pork Chops

This week, I'm pulling out some pork chops from our freezer. Hmm..fry them? Barbecue? I think I'll bake them, sort of like a home made 'shake 'n bake.'

They're frozen and I want to make them for dinner so I have a quick way to prepare them and defrost the the same time. I'm making some brine, which I'll put in the ziploc bag the chops are in to make them tasty, tendy, juicy, and thawed at the same time.

For the brine, I put half a liter of water into a sauce pan. Two heaping tablespoons of Kosher salt, a teaspoon each of marjoram, terragon, and sage go into the water, which I bring to a boil. When it does boil, I stir it vigorously, let boil for another minute and then remove from heat.

Let that sit for 10 minutes before adding into the bag with the chops. Let that marinate for 4-6 hours.

I have some leftover roasted potatoes from last week's chicken dinner. There's also a zucchini in the fridge that I can use for the side.

I coat a baking pan with olive oil.  The chops go into a plastic bowl where I pour some half and half on them. I sprinkle with black pepper and then bread crumbs. Turn them over and do the same thing.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook for 30 minutes. Then remove from oven.

Remove the pork chops and put the potatoes on the bottom of the pan (if you're using uncooked potatoes, put them in at the beginning - see last week's recipe on how to prepare them). Put the chops back in on top of the potatoes with the cooked side down.

Dice up the zucchini.

Fill in the spaces in between the chops with the zucchini. Sprinkle some Kosher salt on them. 

Drizzle a little quality olive oil on the zucchini.

Put back in the oven for 25 minutes.

At the end of 25 minutes, increase temperature to 475 and cook for 15 more minutes for browning. After this, you're ready to serve.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Road Food - Tacos of Southern California

The Heavenly Taco Goodness of Los Tacos de Huicho

Today, we put the spotlight on one of the greatest fast foods in existence...

One real benefit to living in Southern California is all the really good, authentic ethnic food we have here.  From Chinese to Kosher delis, Japanese, Thai, and more.  One thing no one can miss is the saturating abundance of Mexican food we have around here.  For those of you who have seen our Napa Valley Part 1 video, you'll notice Tim called Los Tacos de Huicho the best tacos we've ever had...including Mexico (which is very true).  Here is my real-life scale of taco goodness, with 10 being best and 1 being worst.  Let's start at 1...

1 Tacos Puebla.  Pasadena, CA.  Bland meat.  Overcooked when it shouldn't be...undercooked when it should.  Awful tortillas that have an undercooked, doughy texture.

2 Tacos Don Chente.  El Monte, CA.  I'm gonna piss someone off with this one.  Pretty restaurant.  Clean, happy feeling place.  Good looking desserts.  I want it to be good...why can't I stand their tacos?

3 Tonny's.  Pasadena, CA.  Many people love this place.  It's just average to me.

4 Jack in the Box.  Nationwide.  They must put crack in those two-for-99cent tacos.  I don't know why we like them...but we do.

5 Taco King (not to be confused with #6).  Azusa, CA.  Another decent taco stand in the city.  Good, but just above average.

6 King Taco (not to be confused with #5).  Locations across the Los Angeles region.  The best taco chain.  Great carne asada, good al pastor, decent carnitas, and lame roasted chicken.  Their red sauce will make your lips feel like they're falling off.

7 Rudy's. Monrovia, CA. A sit down, full service restaurant. Most food it better than average but Rudy now has a large taco de tripas on the menu that's out of this world good.

8 Pepe's.  Alhambra, CA.  Nobody makes a hard-shell taco like Pepe's.  Just dripping with juicy goodness and layered with cheese, throw a dollop of their great sauce on and enjoy.

9 El Picoso.  Azusa, CA. (Similarly, almost related, is El Picosito in Duarte, CA) Tacos de papa.  I've tried many places and pretty much choke on these potato tacos.  Not here.  Delicious, fried pockets of tortilla filled with just the right amount of potato.  Also, pretty much the best tripas south of Bakersfield plus good enchiladas and rellenos make this place stand out.  Note:  Many of their best dishes...such as the tacos de papa...are not on the menu.  You just have to know they make them.

10 Los Tacos de Huicho.  Bakersfield, CA.  How to they do it?  I've been here dozens of times and it's always delicious.  Have worked my way about half-way through their menu and have yet to find anything that is not absolutely delicious.  Although everything is top-notch here, their specialty is al pastor.  One of the few places left that do it right, roasted on a vertical spit just oozing with juice.  Tripas...I realize some of you are put off of this offal meat...are crispy, tasty little critters in their delicious fried tortillas.  The creamy, bean and meat goodness of their sopes rest on a just crispy enough shell.  The fish tacos are fresh and will blow those of you who like Rubio's away.  They even make some of the best french fries we've ever had.  The salsa bar holds their perfect red and green salsas, plus the holy grail of salsadom...their spicy, creamy, guacamoloe salsa (see picture above).  The price of a taco here is only 99cents...everyday!  The only down side is their bar, which makes some pretty lackluster margaritas.